Mass Bar: Criminal Lawyers Becoming ‘Working Poor’ Because of Stingy Salaries

The John Adams Courthouse (left) and the Suffolk Superior Court, (right).
The John Adams Courthouse. –Barry Chin/Globe staff

A new study by the Massachusetts Bar Association found that the state’s criminal attorneys are the lowest paid in the United States. That low pay may affect outcomes in the state’s courthouses, according to The Boston Globe.

The association’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Criminal Justice Attorney Compensation conducted the study.

"The unvarnished truth is the compensation is so poor that it drives these lawyers away from the criminal justice system or into the ranks of the working poor," the MBA panel found. "Massachusetts prides itself as a national leader in most fields, including the law. But in compensation of criminal justice lawyers, it ranks dead last."

The commission called for an immediate increase in starting salaries from $37,500 to $55,000, and increasing agency budgets by 20 percent, according to the Globe. Otherwise, starting attorneys will continue to leave the field or take second jobs, compromising their ability to properly prosecute and defend cases.

"There is definitely a public safety aspect to all of it," [Mass Bar Chief Counsel Martin] Healy said. "Some of the individuals are beating charges they ought not to be, and then get back out on the street. And the innocent person standing before the court can be hurt as well. Tax dollars are not being spent in a wise and appropriate fashion."

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